This is a guest post by Ashton I. of San Diego, CA.
Liquor store pizza. Does that get your attention? If you like where this is going, please read on. If you don’t like where this is going, please stop reading because you’re obviously a terrorist and pose a threat to the temple of American Culture known as Fiori’s Pizza and Spirits. Fiori’s is located in the Hillcrest neighborhood of San Diego. Better yet, they’re on Eagle street. How’s that for patriotic, you commie son of a bitch!?
As you approach their building from the adjacent parking lot, it promises nothing more than any of the other beer, booze, and candy slingers around town. Once you cross the threshold into the store, however, you’re bound to notice the odd deli counterish setup immediately to your left. Honestly, it just looks like there used to be a sandwich shop there. Like the owners finally gave up the ghost last weekend and simply haven’t finished moving the furniture out quite yet. Not so. The small, bizarrely placed kitchen is alive and damn if it ain’t kickin! Their website ( http://fiorispizza-spirits.
Stop thinking about poop in a sandwich roll though, and come back with me to the topic at hand. Pizza. There’s actually not much to say about their pizza in a 2014 “what brilliant idea have these guys stumbled upon after smoking dank weed laced with Citra hops out of a beautiful hand blown glass bong filled with Heady Topper IPA for bong water” way, but that is the brilliance in itself. There are half a dozen places around town I can bike to for a slice of arugula, pork belly, and shredded truffle pizza. The options for a straight up pepperoni pizza that hasn’t come out of a freezer are now a cherished commodity.
The cheese is very good, as are the peps and the sauce. Nothing fancy, but nothing missing either. What really sells me on Firori’s pizza is their crust. In the chain world, dominos absolutely sets the bar for what a “not too thin, not too deep” crust should be. In the independent world, Firori’s upholds this standard. It has crunch, but it’s not a crouton. It has dough, but it’s not a baguette. It keeps the cheese in, and all the terrible atrocities of this world out. The price point is very appealing as well, and likely subsidized by the fact that you are definitely walking out of this place with at LEAST a six pack of beer that costs more than the pizza itself. If these prices seem excessive to you Richmonders, just keep in mind that housing costs roughly double here and food/drink cost about 125% of what you’re paying. Wages are way higher though, so it all works out in the end.
Back to pizza. The reason Andy asked me to write this post was because I apparently had one of those “craft beer bong water” ideas that seemed incredible to me but has most likely been done millions of times before by less obnoxious people who didn’t waste their time Instagramming it. I’ve been on an Old Bay kick recently. Like, in a “if you love it so much why don’t you marry it” kind of way, but in a 2014 “if you love it so much why don’t you get a tattoo of it” kind of way. I haven’t yet, but I already have one planned out. I told you I was obnoxious. So my wife and I were chowing down on a classic Fiori’s last Tuesday night, and I decided to douse my half of the pie with that glorious concoction of salt and herbs know as Old Bay. The results were satisfying to say the very least. I loved it. I can’t believe nobody who has surely tried this before hadn’t shown me. I loved it. Did I mention Firori’s also delivers? Not just the pizza, the alcohol too. Don’t tell the terrorists.
The Pizza Underground. A Macaulay Culkin fronted Velvet Underground cover band with songs transformed into pizza lovin’ tunes.
Come to Richmond, please? Lets share a couple cheese slices in a taxi and check out Christmas lights.
Had a bunch of these from a work event a while back. They all looked great but lacked in flavor. It boils down to making the impression that you have a quality product when you don’t want to spend money on quality ingredients. Smelly, wet mushrooms. Big, lifeless pepperoni. Dry crust. Just boring.
Sette is now 23rd and Main Taproom.
It’s more of a flatbread thing but with braised lamb, olive, feta and some other goodies, it tastes great. Go for happy hour and it’s only $4/$5.50 (veggie friendly option available).
Some of these are ridiculous. A few are pretty cool. In an exercise in problem solving, a student at Pratt Institute sketched 100 ways to serve pizza. I think the pizza shots should be rearranged. Lick the breadcrumbs, shoot the sauce, eat a piece of mozzarella. All in all, some good fun.
On September 7th, we, along with the knowledgeable folks at Carytown Bicycle Co. will be hosting the fifth Pizza Crawl aptly titled “Number of the Feast.” This will be in conjunction with the Bicycle Film Festival which is now enjoying three days of fun instead of a lonely Sunday full of movies.
The Bicycle Film Festival, hereby referred to as BFF, will kick off with a party at Bunny Hop Bike Shop on Friday night. Don’t show up to that old basement across the street from Ipanema because no one will be there. Bunny Hop moved to Oregon Hill and to the rejoice of everyone, something was finally done with that huge building on the corner of Laurel and Albemarle. Our little pizza crawl will be held the next day at 4pm. Make sure you come early to register because we’re jackin’ up the prices. $10 gets you a ton of pizza as we’ll be hitting up two P.Crawl virgins on this tour, along with OG’s Tarrants and 8 1/2. Fret not oh lovers of graphic tees, we are getting new shirts this year! You can finally retire that ratty Gary the gorilla on a Lefty shirt from way back when we did the 2nd pizza crawl. Woo! Those will be $20, includes pizza partyage.
Your eyes shant be deceiving you. That is the art that will be on the shirt, printed on beautiful college rule fabric and famous Bic Blue ink.
Returning from last years crawl is Pizza Tonight! and some parking lot party action behind the CBC shop. This is where the men are separated from the baby faces as the unprepared have probably wimped out by now thanks to stomach cramps and poor fitness. Grab a few slices from Pizza Tonights wood fired, mobile brick oven, sling some of the PBR out of your friends backpack and talk about your recent bike upgrades, or what you should have upgraded to if it weren’t for that speeding ticket you got last month.
The BFF continues with its main event(s) on Sunday at the majestic Byrd Theatre. Fifteen bucks gets you access to all the short films and stories starting at 3pm and stretching into the night.
My most recent trip to New York City was pure business. Four days of work, the graveyard shift if you will, and just enough time during the day to stop off at one slice place in Manhattan that I haven’t been to in a year or two. Artichoke.
It’s four bucks and worth every dollar. Big enough to satisfy and very, very different from the majority of street slices you’ll venture across in Manhattan. This is gourmet stuff. Fresh, tangy sauce, a proper dispersement of mozzarella, fresh basil and a crust that is crisp, flakey and charred on the bottom just enough to flash your tongue a bit of the flavor from the oven floor. This stuff is a treat for me and I made this my only pizza stop in Manhattan during my week-long stay. Oh yeah, did I mention 32oz Budweisers, to go? Have a seat on the bench outside and enjoy some people watching on 14th street. Artichoke rules.
So the real reason I was in New York was to work on a TV show that I was asked to PA for. I can’t go in to any details, but during one of the shoots we were on location at a much cherished pizza place in the Bronx, right in the heart of an industrial district that employs thousands of New Yorkers. These men and women work through the night seven days a week in a pretty desolate, almost depressing area that I could probably not hold myself to work in. It’s dark, it’s damp and the hours are grueling. We were there filming at 2 in the morning and most of these people were just arriving. I met one guy who had just arrived with an 18-wheeler full of produce from California. He had one partner with which he switched off driving duties over the 2 1/2 days it took them to make the trip.
What do these people do for food when their lunch break is anywhere from 3 and 6 in the morning? There’s one place open in the area and it happens to serve up pizza, subs and donuts. Due to the nature of the job, I’m forbidden from revealing really any information on the location(s), but let me tell you. It’s barren out here. Warehouses line the streets. This pizza place is literally the only place that is lit up in your line of sight. A bright white light from the sign almost blinds you as you pull up to it, and workers are rolling out pies at 3am. Predator is playing on the two big screens inside as if it were a late night pizza party.
The crew was able to enjoy “lunch” here and while they do serve up pizza, their specialty is the broccoli rabe and sausage hero.
I opted for this because, well, I’ve never seen this on a menu anywhere before. Sure, this place has pizza. I had some of their grandma style squared slices. It’s the stuff of high school cafeterias. The broccoli rabe and sausage was fucking phenomenal. Broccoli rabe is a little like broccoli but much more leafy and pungent. It lacks the bushy head of traditional broccoli and is much easier to eat without boiling it to death. The sausage here is thick, mild and a little smokey, all mixed in with some garlic cloves, parmesan and olive oil on a toasty roll. Fuck yes, son.
After four long nights of work and a gigantic nap I was finally ready to see some friends and relax a bit. My old friend from Richmond, Liz was turning 29 and I was invited to her boyfriend’s backyard griller chiller. Luckily for me they were grilling up some homemade pizzas.
It looks small, but this type of backyard in the middle of Brooklyn is very hard to come by. The grill? Just a regular fancy shmancy propane grill. The pizzas? They came out great.
There were several pizzas to eat but this one had the best toppings configuration and a great example of a grill-produced crust. The gracious host got a few balls of dough from a local pizzeria, stretched them out with some corn flour and threw them on the grill first. Barren. Cook the mother fuckers for a minute or two so the dough takes shape. Lid open! Let it char a tiny bit and then start throwing on your shit. Close the lid and let the toppings cook up and the crust continue to form. It took a few attempts but he finally got some great looking pies.
I’ve had pizza on a traditional grill before but these were by far the best. After a few more familiar Richmond faces arrived we were all knee deep in funny conversation, story time and some legit pizzas. Liz had a cheap-wine grin by the end of the night and I got a killer Brooklyn send-off once again.
I didn’t manage to hit up all the usual spots I wanted to this time around and I didn’t get to spend nearly enough time with my friends but whether you plan for it or not, the pizza will always be there.
PS: This trip wouldn’t have been nearly as fun and comfortable without the help of my friend Laura, who happens to do kick ass work for Saveur. They did a solid expose on the Naples pizza scene in issue 156 and she tipped me off to Don Antonio by Starita in Manhattan. Go eat there, it looks legit.
Step 1 – Get a laptop or tablet and go here – http://comediansincarsgettingcoffee.com. Play any of the episodes. Step 2 - Take the leftover slices you have lying around your fridge from last night’s after-party and throw ‘em in the toaster oven. Step 3 – Fry a couple of eggs. Top your slices and enjoy your Sunday. Don’t forget to root for the USMNT in the Gold Cup Final at 3:30pm EST.
A few weeks back I jumped in a 12 passenger van with my band and best friends and took a 3,600 mile road trip through most of the Southeast and as far west as Texas. Any time I’m traveling, the quest for pizza is on. But when you’re trying to get to venues on time, visiting cities where you don’t know anyone, and the general consensus in the area is that there is no good pizza – well you don’t stop for a whole lot of pizza. Towards the tail end of the trip we landed in St. Augustine. It is the nations oldest European established settlement and the architecture in the downtown area says it all. Statues of conquistadors, cobblestone streets and pastel buildings lined the waterfront and gave me flashbacks of my recent trip to Old San Juan, Puerto Rico. With plenty of time to kill before the show, a local tipped us off to Pizza Time.
Pizza Time is a NY Style spot hiding on pedestrian only side street in the touristy downtown area. They were serving up your regular NY style slices as well as thicker sicilian style squares. I sprung for both slices and a Peroni. Classic cheese and a margherita square. The cheese was legit. Better than a handful of slices I’ve gotten in the mid-atlantic, but nothing outrageously good. Nice balance of everything and good flavor without having to dump all kinds of parmesan, herbs, or spices all over it. Solid crust and good bones! The sicilian slice had loads of flavor. Big chunks of tomato, loads of garlic and basil. This almost seemed like a deep dish with the amount of goodness piled on top. Everything felt really fresh and although the portions on these slices were pretty massive, I happily annihilated both. If you’re on vacation, give it a whirl. The sites are great, you can walk everywhere, and the food alone was worth the trip.
Pamparius on Twitter
- @AlchemyRVA back on Franklin?